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Those Traveling Taliaferro’s Part I

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When I consider the way in which families migrated in colonial days I am awestruck. They were pioneers! Our cross-country road trips in the comfort of our V8 engine sport utility vehicles, hardly qualify. Think about it? Jamestown, Virginia was the first established colonial settlement founded on May 14, 1607, by the Virginia Company of London, the next was Plymouth, Massachusetts founded in 1620. All early American migration began from these two States! These two States grew into  thirteen British Colonies, including Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Providence, Rhode Island.


This is important to realize in genealogy how the expansion of a few families created the Nation in which we have become.The next time you get a reluctant cousin DNA match who adamantly insists that all of their family remained in, and never left the State in which they presently live, since their initial discovery of them in the first census of that State, to present day, remind them of this. Obviously, somebody moved or else I wouldn’t be here and you wouldn’t be there! The science speaks for itself!  In the early years of colonization people didn’t live sedentary lives. They moved! They boarded the earliest transportation known to man their own feet, boat or caravan, from one place to another, they didn’t fly! Air travel wouldn’t be perfected until 1903 with the Wright brothers! Which means they settled a spell in one State before moving on, since walking distances are exhausting. If your family lived in the United Sates chances are they are related in either a direct or indirect way to those first pioneering families who left Virginia and Massachusetts to colonize America. My family obviously have been in America for a long time because much of our DNA is found in one of the first thirteen colonies of the United States. On 23 and me DNA company my father, brother and myself have a cousin Sandra Taliaferro, from Georgia this is our picture:

Our predicted relationship is fifth cousin (fourth to distant) Sandra doesn’t match Marcus, my brother, and therefore I presume our match is through a distant female relative. A fifth cousin would mean we share a great-great-great-great grandparent which would most-likely have been born sometime between 1785 to 1795. We have not discovered yet who that common ancestor was, but I have been tracking the migration of the families who held our genome in bondage and this is what I’ve found:

“Matthew Wood one of the early settlers of Union Parish Louisiana was born in Georgia in 1810 and lived in Lowndes County Alabama when he and a group of planters sold their plantations and moved to Union Parish.” Also, mentioned here is the Feazel family descendants of Johan George Feazel an early settler of Union Parish from Virginia. They hiked along the old salt trails by covered wagons and flat-boated across the Alabama Landing and along the Ouachita River.

Union Parish, Louisiana was founded by settlers from Alabama and Georgia! Keep in mind Louisiana is relatively younger than Georgia it was purchased by the United Sates of America in 1803 from France, and Georgia was one of the original thirteen colonies mentioned above established in 1732, as did many families Sandra’s and mine left the Carolinas, since North and South Carolina is older than either Georgia or Louisiana, it was first part of the Province of Carolina chartered in 1663. My family who settled in Louisiana also migrated from North and South Carolina, settling for a while in Alabama before migrating farther to Louisiana and then farther on to Texas or Arkansas.

I perused Sandra’s list of surnames: 

Of her surnames the prominent ones, which I found that lived in close proximity to my family in Union Louisiana, Alabama or Arkansas are Taliaferro (pronounced like Toliver and often misspelled), Askew, Brewer, Crawford, Little, Parks, Mobley, Gill, Stinson, Turner, and Lawrence highlighted are the surnames of those which I have evidence did mortgage slaves in Union Parish, Louisiana or Bradley Arkansas or Alabama. Sandra’s Taliaferro surname was living in Union Parish, Louisiana transplanted from Bedford Virgina as early as 1847. John Boughton Taliaferro and Ruth McCandles were the parents of Jane E Taliaferro who married John Feazel and had eight children. John and Jane moved to Clay Bradley, Arkansas just doors away from my great-great grandfather Andrew Tidwell in 1870, they were neighbors! More on this later!

Detail: Year 1870 Census: Place: Clay Bradley Arkansas Roll: M593_48 Image 201


Surrounded by Hills

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I have so many cousins! My Relative Finder on 23 and me is bulging and many have accepted sharing with me! Honestly, I don’t know how to place the relationship of many of the cousin matches, or which ancestor they are related to me through, or why some of them match either my dad or brother exclusively but do not show a match to me. I manage all three accounts on 23 and me and I see this quite frequently a cousin will match me but not Marcus or match my dad and Marcus but not me. My dad and Marcus are my highest relative matches so I know they are my father and brother. I do realize that when this does occur the person is nonetheless related to me too. There are a few that I have pondered over who are distant cousins, some that I have found my possible link to and others that I am still making assumptions. Truly, only assumptions can be made here since I do not have written support as of this time to draw a conclusion. One of my cousins, Jesse matches my dad at a predicted relationship of 5th to distant cousin at 19%, and matches me at 5th to distant at 20% both shared across one segment. He does not match my brother Marcus. My assumption is he matches us through a female relative on my dad’s side. Here is our picture:

Jesse allowed me to peruse his family tree and searching through his list of surnames none of his surnames matched any of mine. My tree is a five generational tree with some blanks because I don’t have maiden names for some of the females I found who were married prior to 1870. Keeping a working knowledge of his list of names I began searching the census records around where my family lived to see if there were any surnames similiar to his.  I found an Alonzo Hill born 1820 living in close proximity to Thomas and Jennie Henry in 1870.  In Jesse’s tree, John Hill born 1822 Georgia, is the father of Amos Hill Jesse’s great-great-great and great-great grandfather.

Detail: Year 1870; Census Place: Township 13 Range 27, Barbour,Alabama; Roll:M593 Page: 355; Image 43

Living near my great-great-great grandfather Thomas Henry and Jennie whose maiden name I have not been fortunate to find, is Alonzo Hill born 1820. There is also a Jack Hill living quite close who is somewhat younger than both Jennie and Alonzo Hill and Alonzo’s wife Mary. There is also a Rupel Hill who lives close as well. Thomas Henry and Jennie are surrounded by Hill’s.

Detail: Year 1870; Census Place:  Barbour, AlabamaTownship 12 Range 28 Roll: M593_2 Pg 144 image: 659

Neither John Hill, nor Alonzo Hill nor Jack Hill are old enough to be Jennie’s father but chances are all share a sibling relationship and their yet undiscovered father is Jesse, and our common relative. Shown below is a picture of my great-great-great and great-great grandfather Thomas and William Henry along with Jennie Henry mother and wife in Barbour Alabama. This is the deductive reasoning I used to come to the conclusion that Jennie was nee Jennie Hill prior to her marriage to my third great grandfather Thomas Henry.

Until, I gain further evidence to substantiate this claim the DNA evidence is the only proof that I have that this relationship is certainly possible.

Narrative of a Genome IV: The final chapter

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Our fathers dispersed from Eastern Africa, in two directions South Asia and West Africa. DE-YAP (Y-DNA) or Ounania was the father of haplogroups D* and E* an industrious culture which arose some 100,000 years ago in the moist Southeastern Sahara, before it dried out. Deepak ( haplogroup D*) although, conceived in Africa wasn’t induced there, instead emerged in South Asia. Ounania (DE-YAP) the father of both, whose skin was black, and hair was kinky curly for no other reason than survival in an arid sun rich climate, started an industrious culture from Saharan Africa to South India. Deepak (haplogroup D) migrated out of Africa and into Asia and can be found in high frequencies in populations like Tibet. Haplogroup (E*) let’s call him Oduduwa stayed home in Africa and is found primarily in Central and West Africa and in fewer frequencies in parts of Asia, and Europe, but is the predominant haplogroup amongst African-American males.

About 100,000 years ago haplogroup DE-YAP (YDNA) Ounania, was the long awaited son of haplogroup CT let’s call him Cushi. Ounania descended from (haplogroup CT), Cushi of Ethiopian origin and was carried all over the world. What more could a father do for his son? But equip him with all things necessary for survival. Haplogroup DE-YAP (Y-DNA) did just that, loaded both of his offspring with the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) mutations (genetic variations that occur between species) M116.2, M149, M155, M191/P86 P252/U174 M180/P88, like rounds in the chamber our fathers were defined. No one could say one was a subclade of the other! Those who are often referred to by their most well-known unique event polymorphism (UEP) which make them who they are, the Y chromosome Alu polymorphism (YAP). The ability to create offspring with traits different from the parent stock. These two brothers D and E have the ability to do just that.

The Yorubas maintain an oral history of being the descendants of Lamarudu a king of the East whose son Odudua, the ancestor of the Yorubas, the Kings of Gogobiri, and of the Kukawa, two tribes in Hausa country originated. It is said that Odudua desired to worship in the traditional religion respecting idols but his father Lamarudu forbade it. A religious war ensued and inadvertently Lamaradu was murdered. Odudua was forced to flee he and his children. They fled to Nigeria and founded Oyo, Ile Ife, and Yoruba.


Our most distant ancestor Alfred Bass was haplogroup E1b1a7a (Y-DNA) so is our father Roosevelt Bass Jr. and our father’s father all descended from a common male ancestor taken from Gabon Nigeria in the region of Yoruba and brought to the United States. Recently, I discovered a male cousin match on 23 and me in my father Roosevelt Bass’s Relative Finder whose ancestry is from Ecuador in South America. Africans were trafficked to Ecuador twice once in the fifteenth century and again in the seventeenth century. This cousin is also E1b1a7a (Y-DNA) like my dad and brothers. He says that there live a people of Idoma origin in Palenque de San Basilia who are the descendants of escaped slaves who marooned there after escaping slavery during the first fleet of African traffick to South America. The Idoma inhabit lower and western areas of Benue State Nigeria. The Palenque speak a Bantu creole language mixed with Spanish.

Narrative of a Genome III

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He fell from heaven! Is what the Yoruba of Nigeria say about our most distant paternal ancestor and it’s the same thing I’ve said while searching for our origins . Sometimes the desire to know something gets so clouded with urgency that frustration usurps reality and myth is crowned king. Although, he arrived in West Africa like a drop of dew to a blade of grass and quickly spread to cover the field. He did have a paternal origin that was passed from father to son. His haplogroup was E1b1a* and it is by his nomenclature (E-V38) that he is known. Let’s call him Oduduwa! This is his family tree.


Haplogroup DE-YAP is the progenitor of haplogroup E. He was born in East Africa in the then moist Saharan savanah. The Sahara was once an abundant garden,with lush fields of green grasslands, forest and swamp areas that watered the lands. It was filled with wild life and the people there hunted with bow and arrow. DE-YAP was of Cushite origin primarily Ethiopian. Let’s call him Ounania. The Ounanian culture occupied the Sahara from 8500 B.C. In the region of the eastern Sahara from that period broad portions of Egypt, Chad, Libya and the Sudan experienced a gradual onslaught of humidity and people followed the rains as land became arable. Around, 10,500 years ago monsoon rains pelted the desert and transformed it into a savanah environment that lasted a few hundred years.

The unique thing about our most distant paternal ancestor Ouanania is he was  born with the YAP insertion in his genetic make-up, it’s caused when a strand of DNA called ALU copies itself and then inserts a copy into  the Y chromosome. When a Y chromosome has the YAP insertion  the mutation is called Y positive. Our distant father’s arrival in Western Africa nearly removed the earlier haplogroups A1b, A2, A3 ,and B-M60 that are so common in populations such as the Mbuti and Khoisan speakers.

Winters C. Origin of the Niger-Congo Speakers. WebmedCentral GENETICS 2012; 3(3):WMC00314

Getting Warmer

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You’re getting warmer!  Do you remember that game we used to play, Hot, Cold we called it? Someone would hide an object and elect that you go look for it. Whenever you got close enough to it they would yell you’re getting warmer! Right now my great grandfather Alfred Bass is probably sitting near by and saying to me, you’re getting warmer!  I found an appraisement and inventory list  attached to a public member profile on Although, Alfred Bass was not listed in the inventory Jacob a boy was, along with another boy named Peter. Jacob was valued at $350 and Peter at $375. There was also an older Peter a man appraised at $325. To me they are worth so much more!  Jacob Bass born 1810 lived in close proximity to Alfred Bass born 1845 in the1870 Union Parish Louisiana census, I have often wondered if there were any relation. Recently, I received a labor contract from 1867 which placed them together but of course did not pinpoint the relationship. I know Alfred Bass is my great-great grandfather because he is enumerated as the father of my great grandfather Peter Bass born 1877, in the 1880 census of Union Parish, Louisiana. I was not as certain about Jacob Bass born 1810. Now, I am certain that a relationship existed between them.  I just don’t know how to place him yet, whether he is Alfred Bass’s father or else?

The Appraisement and Inventory Records for John Bass Perry County Courthouse Records:


This record is the inventory of the estate of John Bass born 1775 in Wayne County, North Carolina and who died intestate in Perry County Alabama Marion township in 1822. For the longest time I could only speculate that my Bass family was ever owned by this family. It’s because when John Bass died he died intestate and with considerable debt, he probably had to sell my family!  He left a widow Julian Holliman-Bass and seven children, he had fourteen slaves. All of which I claim as family until further evidence proves different. John Bass’s family each moved from Perry Alabama in 1848 to Union Louisiana and started a settlement there called Marion. There was Uriah Bass who married Eliza Benson-Plummer daughter of Gabriel Benson first judge of Perry County Alabama. He was seventeen at the time of his father John Bass’s death. Mary ‘Polly’ Jane Bass married Rev. Samuel J. Larkin she was fifteen at the death of her father and a young bride. Elizabeth Bass she married Claude Thrasher Barton she was thirteen at the time of her father’s passing. Molsey Ann Bass married Reverend Elias George she was under thirteen years of age when her father passed. Sarah married John Johnson she didn’t remove to Louisiana but remained with her husband in Alabama she was under twelve years when her father passed. Keziah Bass married James Traylor she was under ten years when her father passed. Richard Bass married Mary Ann Powell he was under nine years when his father passed. Julian Holliman-Bass remarried Jetson Green and removed to Union Parish Louisiana.

In the 1862 Sucession records of S. David Mims and Mary W. Ross (Elias George’s step daughter he marries Sarah Rochelle-Ross after the death of Ann Bass) my great grandfather is mentioned in the account and tableau of James Hart Tutor.

He further charges himself with the   hire of negro man Alfred to R. C.   Mims from March to December 1862              112.50

and later in Book A-2, P 460 of the Union Parish Courthouse Records The Sucession of S.David Mims states: March 1864, died March 1862. Mentions minor sons R.L.C. Mims and S.D. Mims Jr Slaves: Ann, 46, and Children, Spencer, 7, Delia,4, and Fanny, 2, Harriet 38, and children, Ross, 7, West, 9, and Mary, 12, Caroline, 22, and children Ellen, 6, William, 4, and Arch, 3, Mander, female 5, Glasco, 17, Alfred, 20, (my great-great grandfather) Pompy, male 50, Eli, 15,Charles, 32, and Celler and her infant, Jeff, no ages shown.

From: Some Slaveholders and Their Slaves Union Parish, Louisiana 1839-1865 page 41; Union Parish, Courthouse Records Book A-2, P 460

Alfred Bass married my great grandmother Silva Lee and together they had eleven children including my great grandfather Peter Bass born 1877. Peter is a recurring name in my family tree. It’s the reason why I can’t be certain if Jacob Bass is Alfred’s father or an Uncle? Could the other boy Peter be my great-great grandfather? Is the older Man Peter the father of both Jacob and Peter mentioned here? Peter Bass, my great grandfather, born 1877, first son was also named Peter Bass Jr born 1901 and died 1916 of tuberculous enteritis. Peter Bass’s son Luther Bass b.1906 would also name his first born son Peter Bass. Do you see how warm I’m getting?

Sometimes I think the ancestors are playing these games of hide and seek with us just to keep us from getting bored. Better go to bed now I’m getting cold!

Extended Family

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Our extended family tree,
holds us beneath its shade,
weeping willow tears,
upon the roots of generations.

Our hybrid parity,
finds shelter within its glade,
yeilding fruit year to year,
from the seeds of diverse creations,

The rivers that rush and retreat,
wash us within its waves,
The Nile flows down my cheeks,
The Jordan crosses my inclination.

Many waters invade my memories,
overflowing my memory banks,
of kinship’s lost at sea,
memories unleashed like inundations.

Your blush hints hues of gypsy,
while brother forks Fulani in his fade,
my surrogate Sioux sister,
our cultures span the nations.

Our knitted history,
weaves us within its braid,
like Cairo Egyptian locks,
that survived for the duration.

Our extended family tree,
is by the shore of many rivers,
Gambezi, Zaire, Euphrates,
wetting our roots like survival stations

My sisters are like these,
a quench of thirst that delivers,
refreshing water to its source,
a joyous reunion of our relations!

Posthumous promise

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For a long time, after I found him I thought my Great Grandfather Alfred Bass had just dropped from heaven one day and landed at age twenty-five in Union Parish, Louisiana, Marion township. The first place I ever saw him was in the 1870 census Union Ward 2. There, he came alive for me, like a photograph of a moment,  of life captured in a frame, in  which the periphery is missing, and I longed to see the whole picture. I wanted to know more about this farmer born 1845 who was head-of-household to Silva (nee Lee) born 1845 and Wiley a child born in 1869.

1870 Census, Union Parish Ward 2, Louisiana pg 26 Roll 593

Sometimes, if you listen like I have you can hear their voices, in the silence, when the darkness of night swallows the moon, and the stars, give no light. Their voices urge you to remember a memory you never lived, their spirits nudge you to search for that light at tunnels-end, that they never found. Dig deeper in the darkness they say, it’s there keep looking. Although, when I search back ten years to 1860 neither Alfred Bass nor Silva Lee are enumerated as free people which let me know they were yet slaves.

In 1870, there were only two other obvious families with the surname Bass, in Marion. Jacob Bass born 1810 a  black man    (according to 1870 census  born in South Carolina, in the1880 census it reads North Carolina)  head of household to seven other people. Was he Alfred’s father?   Uriah Bass enumerated as white head-of-household to five others born 1806 in North Carolina. Were either of them related?

1870 Census Union Parish, Ward 2, Louisiana M593_534 Pg 39 Image 79

1870 census Farmerville, Union Ward 1 M593_534 Pg 8 Image 16

1870 census Monroe Ouachita Louisiana; Roll M593_526; Page: 87; Image 175

There were others who lived in close proximity to Union Parish too, that urged me  to spend some time. Such as Dock Bass born 1825 in Alabama who lived in Farmerville in 1870, the parish seat of Union Parish (in 1880  Alfred Bass  reports his  father was from Alabama and mother from Georgia) or Henry Bass who lived in Ouachita a division of Union Parish. Dock voted  in the first election that blacks were allowed to vote. Then  there was John Bass who  drowned at age 14 in Ouachita Parish listed in the Mortality Schedules, and until I know differently, I claim them all, and will keep their memory alive as a posthumous promise.

This year a friend on Facebook sent me a labor contract made in 1867,  which my great-grandfather is enumerated as one of the employees in a group of sixty-nine others employed by Bart Johnson of Buckhorn Plantation, Ouachita Parish. He is listed amongst some familiar names from the 1870 census including Jacob Bass! I could almost see great-grandpa  Alfred smile!

Records of the field offices for the State of Louisiana, Bureau of Refugees, Freedman, and Abandoned Lands

Another name listed on this labor contract was Peter Rochelle who was a former slave owned by Nancy Harrison Rochelle, wife of Anderson Rochelle and in whose will Peter Rochelle is  mentioned. Nancy is  the grandmother of Mary W. Ross-Mims, wife of Seaborn David Mims,  Nancy Rochelle’s daughter, Sarah Rochelle-Ross  married  first James Ross who  died in 1849 then later she  married Elias George the widow of Molsey Ann Bass who migrated to Union  Parish from Perry Alabama  in 1848. It is in the sucession  records of Mary W. Ross-Mims that  my great  grandfather Alfred is named.

Laughing at Life

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The blues are as old as misery. If she were a woman that would be her name “Miss Ery.” Shakespeare knew the blues when he said, “That friend who toils, and seeks for gain, and follows but for form, will pack when it begins to rain and leave you in the storm.” One of my mother’s favorite quotes, she knew the blues too, and introduced me to them at an early age. My dad would play nothing but the blues on a road trip, from L.A. to Nevada so if you wanted to listen to something else you’d better hide the B.B. King tape. The blues is the one form of secular music my dad would allow, and as omnipotent as they are I’m certain Jesus Christ must have known them too. For he sang them on calvary when he cried out, “My God, my god why hath thou forsaken me?” The blues is any human tragedy or painful situation that once suffered strengthens us and if it does’nt kill us gives us reason to look back, laugh about it, carry on, and continue living. The blues was the forbear for all genres of music. It was sister to the spiritual and reared in the same cotton fields where my ancestors labored without pay from sun up to sun down. It was a language spoken to the other slaves in code that the harvest was ripe for either insurrection or escape. “We gonna steal away, steal away, ’cause we ain’t got long to stay here.” If only I could have been an adult in those hot, dog days of summer, in the back woods of some smoke-filled juke joint dancing in cadence over the cedar wood floors, to the wails of the blues as she gave birth to jazz. In the era when, artist composed and sang by heart, they didn’t sample, or voice-over their work. I would love to have been alive then, in those days before synthesizers and amplifiers, when the best amp was the vocal cord and the primary instrument was the heart.


What I’d give to witness the lilting early voice of Billie Holliday, accompanied by the Prez, in the 1930’s or Muddy Waters, and Etta James. How exciting it must have been to have been present in 1944 when Norman Granz promoted his first concert at the Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles. I would have been in my element, true daddies girl I am, bobbing my head and tapping my feet, just like in the days of those old chevy road trips to Vegas, to the tunes of Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, or Count Basie, but in person. The blues may be as old as misery, but they are as comical as slapstick. As my mom would say, “Child, you gotta laugh to keep from crying.” The blues are a comic reflection of our most intimate vulnerabilities, it is the joyous residual, rush of adrenaline which accompanies triumph over despair, as Lady Day sang it is our way of laughing at life. ~victori

Umoja (Unity)

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Umoja (United) written 1992 revised.

Could it be you’ve heard of me,
though we’ve never chanced to meet?
or maybe, we shared a common ancestor,
amid the Saharan heat.
My ancestors were Fulani,
Yoruba and Oyo,
Our cousins were Ashanti,
Hausa and Sokoto,
I am the Mansa’s daughter,
the griot from Segu,
Could it be we’ve met before,
somewhere in Timbuctoo?
My mother? An Angolan warrior,
who fought the Portuguese,
in Queen Nzingha’s army,
bringing white men to their knees,
My father was a nobleman,
a scholar at Jenne;
before the transatlantic voyage,
departed from Goree.

They churched us with Jesus,
in the belly of ‘the Whale’,
then sold us into slavery,
and  delivered us straight to hell,
Could be that you know me?
think you’ve seen my face before,
because they separated our family,
as soon as we reached the shore,
divided us by dozens,
and auctioned us on the block,
separated us from our cousins,
so we’d forget our talk,
customs, and our mores,
sold my brother to a planter,
sold my mother to a city store,
kept my sister in the  big house,
and forced her to become Massa’s whore.
with no regard to his spouse,
then sold her mixed race children,
prior to the Civil war.

Now I think you know me,
or shall I print another page?
Now you know my history,
and pain, that doesn’t die with age,
I thought slavery ended,
in the year of jubilee,
instead I found my love offended,
tarred  and feathered,
strung from a tree,
even after two Civil Rights bills,
we still ain’t free,
I know now you know me,
but I don’t want your apologies,
sympathy or blame,
this is about my ancestry,
and the need to know my own damn name!
give me back my family,
so my descendancy I can claim,
I know you know me, at least now you do,
Allow  me to introduce myself,
for brother I am you!

Narrative of a Genome II

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Lebila’s husband our distant maternal father fished in Lake Chad and conducted trade and commerce along the Niger River. He was a farmer. Lebila an L3b1a haplogroup may have cultivated rice along the marshes surrounding Lake Chad. African rice has been cultivated for more than 3500 years, but maybe she and our distant maternal father we will call Eliba may have introduced the Asian species of rice to the West, which was introduced to East Africa by the Chinese and spread westward. Other crops that were cultivated were yams, cassava, and millet. Lebila and Eliba lived relatively peacefully for awhile, performing the necessary work required to sustain life and raise a family. They built villages surrounding the rivers and began a system of government that respected elders and was based on a system of democracy. They lived in northern Cameroon, near where the Benoue River runs north and west before it empties into the Niger River. Lebila didn’t relax long, though. It was there sometime in the sixteenth or seventeenth century our mother the daughter of Lebila also an L3b1a was captured and sold into the Transatlantic slave trade. We will call her Layla.

“They wanted us to walk, and so we did. We walked and walked. Our bodies trembling from the shock of being startled awake, violently pulled to our feet, kicking, screaming, punching to escape their grasp, the feel of their touch lingering yet upon our unwilling bodies. We smelled smoke. Saw fire fall. We watched in horror our village burn, our families subdued. We clawed at their skin with only our fingernails as weapons. Some of us tried to run to get a weapon, a rock, a stick, anything, only to be struck down in flight by our captors iron hollow reeds, which spit a deadly venom stinging any ambitious hero in flight, in the back, between shoulder blades, in the chest, the head, one by one they fell Lebila, our mother too, until even our bravest warriors surrendered without protest. We wondered what did they want from us? Were these the ascari’s of the despised, who did the White man’s bidding that was rumored about? Who were these white men? Did they look like the white sands of the deserts or the foam from the mouth of a dog raging with disease? None of us had ever saw one before. We came to a place where they branded each of us with a hot iron. The raw metal seared our flesh and burned its intention directly to our nerves”


Layla may have been captured in a group, in a raid on their village, marched along with others amid their captors, and taken to the Slave Coast. Their captors would stop to purchase merchandise which they tied on their backs and expected them to carry. Some of them were sold there, and never reached the coast. Many died of typhoid fever, malnutrion and disease. Layla made it to the Ocean. That enormous expanse of water frightened her because she had never seen anything like it before.

Upon reaching the Guinea Coast, they were detained in cramped pens, with high fortified walls, too high to climb, squatting in dirt, in open pens, no roof tops and exposed to the open sky above and the elements, the smell of rotten fish, excrement, and dysentery was nauseating, if they vomited there they were forced to sleep in it. They may have been detained here for weeks and put to work at the trading stations. Once a ship was anchored off the coast they were quickly canoed over and boarded on, confined in the hull of the ship tightly like sardines. Many committed suicide right there by jumping overboard and many more died from being forced to sleep in their own and others excrement. Disease was rampant, death took many and the voyage took many months. Layla may have been allowed on deck for domestic duties, women were often raped on board.

They arrived first in Jamaica, where they were dropped off and forced to labor on sugar plantations. Some of our kin was taken to Trinidad and Tobago. Layla’s descendants would be brought to Cross Hills, Laurens South Carolina sometime about 1834. Where Martha born about 1820 and who died sometime before 1880, would give birth to Clarisa Owens born 1853 and who died Oct 3, 1915. Clarisa would marry Lewis Holland and have sixteen children ten girls, including Alma Holland my grandmother who gave birth to five girls including our mother, Airlessa Shepard born April 24, 1923 and who died December 30, 2000 all of direct lineage maternal DNA L3b1a Lebila’s haplogroup, and two sons. Alma had been born with a debilitating rheumatoid arthritis which caused her foot to club. She could never relax. She was always busy caring for her younger brothers and sisters. She didn’t marry until she was thirty years old. She met and married James Shepard and of their seven children, the two males Marcellus and Homer would die young, without issue. Each of the remaining five females would marry but only one, Geneva Shepard-Perry would remain childless. Out of the other four girls twelve children would come but only three females to carry the L3b1a including myself. James Shepard had done for Alma what no person had ever done for her. He lifted her tired feet, rough heels as tough as whit leather, worn from performing domestic work, between his strong hands and wrung them like a rag, rubbing oil like life into her soles. She shuddered with a pleasure she’d never known, and for the first time in her life she relaxed.